Why do Catholic believe that Mary is sinless?


#1

On another thread, a new member, jdc 1084 posed the following concern:

“I don’t understand how come Mary had to be without sin. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
It doesn’t say ‘except for Mary’. I’ve heard that when she was created, God created her without sin so that is how she is sinless. But I can’t find anywhere in the Bible that actually talks about it. In my opinion, God brought Jesus into a sinful world by the humblest of means. Even though Mary was blessed among women, I just don’t understand how even she could be sinless. Please help me with understanding this idea.”

In order to keep that thread from diverting from the OP’s original question, I opened this thread for jdc1084. I KNOW this topic has been pursued through other threads (someone provide links if you want), but I wanted to do this courtesy since I was the one demanding he open a separate thread instead of “hijacking” an existing one. jdc1084 seems respectfull in his search, so hopefully this will provide the insight he seeks.

God bless


#2

We believe it because the Church, which we believe was founded by Christ and is guided by the Holy Spirit, teaches it. God decided that it was fitting for His only begotten Son, at the incarnation, to have not only a perfect divine Father, but also a perfect human mother. Mary’s human perfection is a gift of the Father to the Son, and a gift of the Son to all the world.

As to “all have sinned”, it doesn’t exclude Jesus either. And what about aborted babies, what sin have they committed?


#3

We can all agree that we are the pedigree by biology of Adam and Eve. They carried the stains of original sin and gratuituitusly gave it to us as inheritance. Now, for the Messiah to come, he would have to come from a womb of a woman without this stain, so that his biology both in the spiritual and physical sense is pure. Mother Mary, full of grace-is the recepient of this Immaculate Conception so that Christ can come with full integrity and no trace of Original sin in his human nature. For him to come from a woman with the slightest hint of original sin is not worthy of the Incarnate Word. Like Christ said, we do not put new wine in old wine skins.

Now, should we demand the bible to come up with this explicitly would be like looking at the Constitution of the United States if crossing a red light was wrong. This is why the Magisterium and the Councils that declare such things is indispensable.

in XT.


#4

[quote=AquinasXVI]We can all agree that we are the pedigree by biology of Adam and Eve. They carried the stains of original sin and gratuituitusly gave it to us as inheritance. Now, for the Messiah to come, he would have to come from a womb of a woman without this stain, so that his biology both in the spiritual and physical sense is pure.
[/quote]

I have a slight problem with the above quote. “for the Messiah to come, he would have to come from a womb of a woman without this stain” I don’t think HAVE TO is the correct terminology. I don’t see God having to do anything. If he wanted anything, He is God, anything is possible. I am not denying that Mary was sinless, but to say she had to be in order for Jesus to come from her womb, I guess I just have a problem with that absolutist of a word. God didn’t HAVE TO do anything in order to get his desired results. I could be wrong, that was just the impression I had when I read your post.

I believe this is referred to as infinite regression… if Jesus had to come from a sinless womb, in order to be pure, then so did Mary’s Mother so Mary could be pure, and her Grandmother, etc. etc…

Now, should we demand the bible to come up with this explicitly would be like looking at the Constitution of the United States if crossing a red light was wrong. This is why the Magisterium and the Councils that declare such things is indispensable.

Just a side note, Mary was around before the Bible was written, Red lights were created after the constitution…so this isn’t really a paralleled analogy. I know this is nitpicking, I just thought I would point it out in case later you might want to change your analogy to “right to privacy in the constitution” or something more parallel.

RyanL’s Wife


#5

First of all I accepted the DOGMA (a decree/teaching of the faith that must be believed) of the Immaculate Conception on faith.

But it all makes perfect sense, really. I know about Romans 2:23 that the protestants use our of context to show that ALL have sinned. Has a newly baptised infant sinned? No. There are instances in Scripture where is says something like ALL came…did that mean every single person in town came? No one was homebound, etc. So that one Pauline verse does not clinch any argument for me.

And we know from the reading of the Old Testament just how particular God was in the construction of the Ark and of the Temple, etc. Would He have been less choosy in the design of the Ark of the New Testament which is the Second Person of the most Blessed Trinity, Christ?

We know Mary proclaims her joy in God her Savior? Yes, He was her Savior but she was saved beforehand. Could not God do that? Of course! Our Lady was never under satan’s dominion! In Genesis we read about the emnity of the devil and THE woman.
What woman never succumbed to satan’s wiles? Only Mary and so by her Seed, the devil is crushed. We see Mary standing on the globe crushing a snake don’t we?

If someone were to fall into a pit and another pulls them out, that one who pulls them out saves them, right? Well suppose that someone sees someone else heading for the pit and stops them from falling in; are they not still a savior? Sure. By a one singular special privilege, Our Lady was saved even from the stain of original sin. This is why she was also assumed body and soul into heaven for this beloved would not know decay.

Our Lady! Our Mother! Conceived without sin! She trembled slightly as she revealed herself to St. Bernadetter, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” All glory be to God!
Ave Maria!


#6

For me, the most powerful Scripture in support of Mary’s sinlessness is Genesis 3:15. From the King James Version, it reads: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed …”

Now, “enmity” means a deep-seated hatred.

Anyone who sins does so because, in a small way, she desires that sin.

Someone who has enmity with Satan has no desire for sin, and would be sinless.

We see from the verse that “the woman” has enmity between herself and Satan and would not “desire” to follow him in sin.

In addition, her seed will have enmity with Satan’s seed (also an aversion to sin).

Who is the woman? It can’t be Eve (as my Evangelical friend recently discovered) because her “seeds”, Able, Seth, and especially Cain (and all the others) had no enmity with the serpent (or sinlessness).

The only “seed” who had enmity with Satan in the history of the human race was Christ.

Which means that, if he is “the woman’s” seed, “the woman” must be his mother. His mother was Mary. She has enmity between herself and Satan. She is without sin, and Genesis 3:15 is a foreshadowing of this.


#7

[awfulthings9]On another thread, a new member, jdc 1084 posed the following concern:

[quote]
"I don’t understand how come Mary had to be without sin. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
It doesn’t say ‘except for Mary’.

First of all, Mary didn’t “have” to be without sin. As many of the early Church fathers say, it was “fitting” that she was conceived without original and didn’t have actual sin.

I’ve heard that when she was created, God created her without sin so that is how she is sinless. But I can’t find anywhere in the Bible that actually talks about it.

Mary is a creation of God, she is NOT divine, and we do NOT worship her, we honor her as Jesus honors His parents,yet she is the most “blessed” among Saints.
Rom 3:23 the word “all” certainly couldn’t mean every person that ever existed, if it did then babies who don’t have “sin” couldn’t fit into the “all have sinned” assertion.

In my opinion, God brought Jesus into a sinful world by the humblest of means. Even though Mary was blessed among women, I just don’t understand how even she could be sinless.

It surely is a difficult one to understand for some if you haven’t studied this issue.
Luke 1:28 is where the Bible speaks of Mary being without sin.

“Rejoice so highly favored”/“Hail full of grace”. Luke

1:28.

Both translations are derived from the Greek word kecharitomene which refers to a person transformed by the grace of God. The word is used only one other time in the New Testament and that is in the epistle to the Ephesians where Paul is addressing those who by becoming Christians are transformed by grace and receive the remission of sins. It is obviously significant that Mary is considered to already have been transformed by grace before the birth of Christ. La Potterie comments:

The perfect passive participle is used by Luke to indicate that the transformation by grace has already taken place in Mary, well before the moment of the Annunciation.

In what then would this transformation of grace consist? According to the parallel text of the Letter to the Ephesians 1:6 the Christians have been ‘transformed by grace’ in the sense that ‘according to the richness of his grace, they find redemption by his blood, the remission of sins.’ (Ephesians 1:7). This grace, in reality, takes away sin. This is elucidating for our particular case.
Mary is ‘transformed by grace,’ because she has been sanctified by the grace of God. It is there, moreover, in the Church’s tradition that we have the most customary translation. Sophronius of Jerusalem, for example, interprets the term ‘full of grace’ in this manner: ‘No one has been fully sanctified as you …; no one has been purified in advance as you.’ In addition, he takes from the total context that Mary had been ‘transformed by the grace’ of God in view of the task which she awaits, that of becoming the Mother of the Son of God, and to do so while remaining a virgin.
(Ignace de la Potterie, Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant, pp.17-20.)

A good article to read that explains the Old Testament and New Testament explanations of Mary being without sin is found at:
mariology.com/sections/biblical.html :slight_smile:
[/quote]


#8

Thanks for all the responses. They’ve brought some things to my attention that I haven’t thought of before. I’ve been looking into both sides (Catholic and protestant) so I can see the reasonings that each uses in regards to this issue. One thing I have recently come across that I also hadn’t thought of before is Luke 2:22-24. It’s about a week after Mary has given birth to Jesus. It says:

“And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord); And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

I had never thought anything about the offering a pair of turtledoves, and maybe now I’m just overanalyzing again, but when you look back in Leviticus where it’s describing all the sacrifices to be made it talks about the pair of turtle doves:

“And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass, which he hath committed, two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the LORD; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering.” Lev. 5:7

So does this mean that Mary and Joseph were offering a sin offering? I’m no scholar, so I could be making some wrong connections or just misunderstanding all together. Please help.


#9

[quote=jdc1084]“And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord); And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

So does this mean that Mary and Joseph were offering a sin offering? I’m no scholar, so I could be making some wrong connections or just misunderstanding all together. Please help.
[/quote]

Excellent and valid point, jdc1084. Keep in mind that the above verse never specifies “sin” offering, but an offering in the “days of her purification”. Jewish law held that, after giving birth, a Jewish woman was considered “unclean”. The only way she could become clean again, through Jewish law, was through an offering of purification. As a faithful Jew (especially since she wouldn’t have understood the “New Covenant” yet, with Christ only an infant), Mary was obedient to the Jewish law and filled her obligation. Anyway, God bless.


#10

[quote=jdc1084]…Luke 2:22-24. It’s about a week after Mary has given birth to Jesus. It says:

“And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord); And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

I had never thought anything about the offering a pair of turtledoves, and maybe now I’m just overanalyzing again, but when you look back in Leviticus where it’s describing all the sacrifices to be made it talks about the pair of turtle doves:

“And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring for his trespass, which he hath committed, two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the LORD; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering.” Lev. 5:7

So does this mean that Mary and Joseph were offering a sin offering? I’m no scholar, so I could be making some wrong connections or just misunderstanding all together. Please help.
[/quote]

Here is the lead-up text to Lev. 5:7:

*1: "If any one sins in that he hears a public adjuration to testify and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall bear his iniquity.

2: Or if any one touches an unclean thing, whether the carcass of an unclean beast or a carcass of unclean cattle or a carcass of unclean swarming things, and it is hidden from him, and he has become unclean, he shall be guilty.

3: Or if he touches human uncleanness, of whatever sort the uncleanness may be with which one becomes unclean, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it he shall be guilty.

4: Or if any one utters with his lips a rash oath to do evil or to do good, any sort of rash oath that men swear, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it he shall in any of these be guilty.

5:]b] When a man is guilty in any of these, he shall confess the sin he has committed,

6: and he shall bring his guilt offering to the LORD for the sin which he has committed*, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.

7: "But if he cannot afford a lamb, then he shall bring, as his guilt offering to the LORD for the sin which he has committed, two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering.

Now compare this to the offering after giving birth (Lev. 12):

*2: "Say to the people of Israel, If a woman conceives, and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean.

3: And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.

4: Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying; she shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed.

5: But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation; and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying for sixty-six days.

6: "And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the door of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering,

7: and he shall offer it before the LORD, and make atonement for her; then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female.

8: And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean." *

So clearly there is offering for sins committed (first set of verses) and there is offering for the fact of having been declared unclean by the act of giving birth. I know none of us considers the act of giving birth to be a sin, so the offering that the woman shall be clean is not an offering for sin. The second set of verses specifically does not say anything like “for the sin she has committed”.

Look up the various references in the bible to “sin offering” and you will see that they usually refer to the sin which a person has committed, but in the case of giving birth there is no such reference. The offering in this case is a matter of ritual purification.

Oh, and don’t forget that Jesus was baptised. Does that mean he was a sinner?


#11

I love to use The book of Job to back up the reason why Mary’s sinlessness is not only something to be believed but is something vital and necessary in order to bring about the Christ.
Book of Job Chapter 14

1 "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. 2 He comes forth like a flower, and withers; he flees like a shadow, and continues not. 3 And dost thou open thy eyes upon such a one and bring him into judgment with thee? 4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one. 5 Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with thee, and thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass, 6 look away from him, and desist, that he may enjoy, like a hireling, his day.

So if Mary was unclean from the point of view of carrying the stain of original sin, she could not have brought forth the sinless Christ.

Now the above excerpt from Job applies to all those who are born with original sin. The corollary must be true, which would be only those that are clean can bring forth something which itself is clean.

Therefore, to bring forth the Christ who is sinless, Mary must have, from the very moment of her conception, been, by a singular privilege granted to her by God, without stain of original sin.


#12

Therefore, to bring forth the Christ who is sinless, Mary must have, from the very moment of her conception, been, by a singular privilage granted to her by God, without stain of original sin

But then to bring forth Mary who is clean, wouldn’t the same have apply to her mother? If God made Mary pure from sin in the womb how could he not do the same for Jesus? Thanks again for all the replies. I truly am taking them into serious thought.


#13

As you’ve respectfully implied jdc1084, one can find support for both the Catholic and Protestant viewpoint in Scripture. I feel that the Catholic viewpoint is consistent with the overall theme of Scripture (such as an understanding of a “purification” offering), while the Protestant approach is usually supported by isolated verses.

However, you may disagree. So … where does that leave us? Most Protestants date the start of the Catholic Church around the late 4th century (we believe it started at Pentacost). Wouldn’t it be a smart idea, then, to go back to the writings of the men who lived in the first and second centuries … the men who knew the apostles, learned from them, or from their disciples? Wouldn’t this be the most fair way to see how the earliest Christians understood God’s revelation? If you follow the link I provide below, it gives a number of early texts, many from the apostolic era or just a few yeras after it. We don’t believe these are inspired, but they are a good historical record of how the people who learned from the first disciples understood the role of Mary:

catholic.com/library/Mary_Full_of_Grace.asp

As it turns out, nobody questioned Mary’s sinlessness until the Protestant reformation, over one-thousand and five-hundred years after Christ. In fact, most of the reformers, including Luther and Calvin believed as we do regarding Mary. Since there is such strong disagreement one both sides, perhaps we should look to the earliest church for some clarification. Surely, if they were wrong, someone during that time of “pure” Christianity would have spoken up.

Yet, when I have looked for even one text from an early Church father that states that Mary was a sinner, all I found was silence. Perhaps you will take up that challenge.


#14

[quote=jdc1084]But then to bring forth Mary who is clean, wouldn’t the same have apply to her mother? If God made Mary pure from sin in the womb how could he not do the same for Jesus? Thanks again for all the replies. I truly am taking them into serious thought.
[/quote]

No. Mary was granted a “Singular Grace and Privilege” Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus 8 December 1854

thanhsinhcong.org/saints_index/bvm00013.htm

To keep it brief imagine you come across a person who has fallen into a deep pool of dirty water and are struggling to stay alive. You would of course help to lift them out.

If you see another person approach the same dirty pool and percieve that they are going to fall in also, you would do something to prevent their fall like call out to them or stand in front of it and redirect them.

Which of the two have you saved?


#15

In the Old Testament, there was
the Tablets of the Law, the Manna from Heaven, and the priestly rod of Aaron. these were stored in the Ark of the Covenant.
The Ark of the Covenant had to be perfect in every way to carry these things. It was made of the best wood, and inlaid and overlaid with the finest and purest gold. Any unauthorized person who so much as touched it was struck dead.

JESUS CHRIST, the God-Man, is the TRUE manna from heaven, the Gospel is the New Law, and he is the True High Priest.
As such, Mary, the anti-type of the original Ark of the Covenant, had to be pure and undefiled in every way in order to carry the Godman in her womb for 9 months. She, spiritually, had to be made of the finest wood and the purest gold. And she was and is. Mary is the new Ark of the “New” Covenant.

There is much more about this subject on the Web. Do a google search for MARY ARK OF THE COVENANT, and you’ll find some very enlightening reading on this matter. God bless !!
Love,
Jaypeeto3


#16

[quote=awfulthings9]Wouldn’t it be a smart idea, then, to go back to the writings of the men who lived in the first and second centuries … the men who knew the apostles, learned from them, or from their disciples? Wouldn’t this be the most fair way to see how the earliest Christians understood God’s revelation? If you follow the link I provide below, it gives a number of early texts, many from the apostolic era or just a few yeras after it. We don’t believe these are inspired, but they are a good historical record of how the people who learned from the first disciples understood the role of Mary

[/quote]

Sure this ‘would be a good idea’ if there were something approaching unanimity amongst the ECF on the subject of Mary’s sinlessness, but there isn’t. Basil, Tertullian, Ambrose, Augustine, Clement of Alexandria, and other Church Fathers wrote of Mary as having Original Sin like the rest of us and indicating that Christ alone was sinless.

What you have provided is selective ‘prooftexting’ of ECF writings.
I can do the same for the opposing view.

So on what basis are the ECF writings selected to ‘prove’ this dogma? If it’s not the unanaminous consent of the Fathers, is it the majority opinion of the Fathers?

Blessings,
Richard


#17

There were always two schools of thought on this issue.
NO father believed that Mary ever COMMITTED a sin, but many believed she had contracted Original Sin but was cleansed from it.
A similar situation occured over the doctrine of whether Christ would LITERALLY reign on earth for 1,000 years after his second coming. Many of the best early Fathers held that there WOULD be a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth (Justin Martyr, Irenaeus are two good examples). Others did not hold that view.
The church looked into the question and gradually came to the conclusion that the 1,000 years were a symbolic number.
A similar thing occured with the question of Mary’s immaculate conception. Hope this helps!!
God bless,
Jaypeeto3


#18

How else could she have been worthy to give God physical form inside herself?


#19

[quote=jdc1084]But then to bring forth Mary who is clean, wouldn’t the same have apply to her mother? If God made Mary pure from sin in the womb how could he not do the same for Jesus? Thanks again for all the replies. I truly am taking them into serious thought.
[/quote]

Yes, there is a problem with infinite regression here.

Consider it this way. Which is the human the way God designed and intended humans to be, a human who sins and has been tainted by sin, or a human who doesn’t sin and has not been tainted by sin? Which is the example of God’s intent, the sinning human or the non-sinning human.

The human nature that the Word was to take on in the incarnation was obviously to be the perfect human nature, not the corrupted human nature. It was fitting that Jesus would derive His human nature from humanity the way God intended humanity to be. It was fitting that the perfect God / perfect man should derive His divine nature from perfect God, and His human nature from perfect man (woman, actually). It was fitting that Jesus should flow from all perfection.


#20

[quote=Richard_Hurtz]Sure this ‘would be a good idea’ if there were something approaching unanimity amongst the ECF on the subject of Mary’s sinlessness, but there isn’t. Basil, Tertullian, Ambrose, Augustine, Clement of Alexandria, and other Church Fathers wrote of Mary as having Original Sin like the rest of us and indicating that Christ alone was sinless.

What you have provided is selective ‘prooftexting’ of ECF writings.
I can do the same for the opposing view.

So on what basis are the ECF writings selected to ‘prove’ this dogma? If it’s not the unanaminous consent of the Fathers, is it the majority opinion of the Fathers?

Blessings,
Richard
[/quote]

Well, you give an impressive list of church “fathers” (Basil is not) who believed that Mary had sinned. Let’s take them one at a time.

*Augustine – *I searched for the longest time among Protestant cites for a record of what Augustine supposedly said to discount the idea of Mary having never sinned. The best I could fine was that he supposedly wrote: “He, Christ alone, being made man but remaining God never had any sin, nor did he take of the flesh of sin. Though He took flesh of the sin of his mother.” The problem? None of the sources could cite the text from which this quote was taken. I couldn’t find it in searches of Augustine’s work. I’m not saying that someone fudged a little here and others just copied a fabrication (though a possibility), but if you can provide me with the original document so I can verify, I’d appreciate. Nonetheless, let’s see what else Augustine had to say on the matter:

“Having excepted the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, on account of the honor of the Lord, I wish to have absolutely no question when treating of sins—for how do we know what abundance of grace for the total overcoming of sin was conferred upon her, who merited to conceive and bear him in whom there was no sin?—so, I say, with the exception of the Virgin, if we could have gathered together all those holy men and women, when they were living here, and had asked them whether they were without sin, what do we suppose would have been their answer?” (Nature and Grace 36:42 [A.D. 415]).

Ambrose* writes:*

“The first thing which kindles ardor in learning is the greatness of the teacher. What is greater [to teach by example] than the Mother of God? What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose? What more chaste than she who bore a body without contact with another body? For why should I speak of her other virtues? **She was a virgin not only in body but also in mind, **who stained the sincerity of its disposition by no guile, who was humble in heart, grave in speech, prudent in mind, sparing of words, studious in reading, resting her hope not on uncertain riches, but on the prayer of the poor, intent on work, modest in discourse; wont to seek not man but God as the judge of her thoughts, to injure no one, to have goodwill towards all, to rise up before her elders, not to envy her equals, to avoid boastfulness, to follow reason, to love virtue. When did she pain her parents even by a look? When did she disagree with her neighbors? When did she despise the lowly? When did she avoid the needy?” (ibid., 2:2:7).

“Come, then, and search out your sheep, not through your servants or hired men, but do it yourself. Lift me up bodily and in the flesh, which is fallen in Adam. Lift me up not from Sarah but from Mary, a virgin not only undefiled, but a virgin whom grace had made inviolate, free of every stain of sin” (Commentary on Psalm 118:22–30 [A.D. 387]).

continued …


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